At a networking meeting, a gentleman told me he called his local chamber of commerce and asked for a graphic design referral. They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give him a single name. I thought that was really odd. I’ve only been a member of a handful of chambers but they were always quick to refer members.
A fellow business owner I know joined a chamber and that membership resulted in at least $20,000 of additional revenue for their business through chamber referrals. I hurried and joined that same chamber and saw zero dollars added to my bottom line. To be fair, I didn’t network or work the connections as I should have and my business model wasn’t as solid as it should have been.
These two incidents reminded me that a membership with the right chamber can be lucrative for your business if you have your business ducks in a row and aren’t afraid to network.
The price to join chambers in my area range from free (Main Street Chamber) to about $300 for an entrepreneur or small business with under 10 employees. Chamber membership fees may vary by region and chambers in Los Angeles and San Francisco don’t list their membership rates online. You’ll have to submit an online query to get that information.
Networking and becoming a member of your local chamber does allow you to get in front of some of the bigger companies in your community. Fortune 500 companies even join the chamber. The bank you’ll ask for a business loan is more than likely a chamber member. Then there are specialized chambers; chambers for people of color and for women-owned businesses.
Ready to seriously run with the big dogs? If you live in the Houston area, consider organizations like the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau or the Greater Houston Partnership. Look up similar organizations in your community.
Be sure to do your due diligence before you join and then go in knowing that building relationships take time. Maybe that’s why the guy didn’t get a referral from the chamber mentioned earlier; they didn’t know enough about those graphic design businesses to refer them.
Chambers and networking organizations are always looking for volunteers and volunteering is a great way to strengthen relationships and get referrals. The old saying still holds true; people do business with people they know and trust. That’s why I’m currently struggling with the idea of turning my books over to an overseas accountant. But that’s a different blog post.
This year, consider joining a chamber to grow your business. The rewards can be lucrative if you’re willing to put in the time.